The Honest Guide for Coding Bootcamps II: Bootcamp Readiness
This chapter is part of The Honest Guide for Coding Bootcamps, a collection of thoughts after a full-time software engineer bootcamp.
You probably wouldn’t run a marathon without training for it. You probably don’t want to quit your job and become a broke student again. You were there once, but this time it can be different. These are some tips so that you get prepared for your career transition.
Personal Finance Planning
When I decided to attend a full-time immersive bootcamp, I didn’t have enough savings to pay the tuition upfront. Therefore, I chose to wait and accepted a new job offer with a higher salary that helped me save enough to cover the tuition and a few months of living expenses. As I mentioned, it took me nine months to get my first job after four months of being a full-time student.
Besides, many of the campuses are in expensive cities such as NYC or SF. You should plan for different scenarios, not ignoring the worse ones! You don’t want to take any job because you are running out of money. Therefore, build a financial plan to cover tuition and living expenses for at least six months of job search. It’s Excel time, do some simple math:
- Bootcamp tuition (if you don’t qualify for free/deferred tuition): avg 17K
- Cost of opportunity: Monthly salary X 12 months (if you already have a job and you’re planning on quitting)
- Fixed expenses: (rent + utilities + food + transportation ) X 12 months
- New laptop (if needed): 2K
After a year saving, I still didn’t have enough cash to last more than a year without any income. Therefore, my partner and I agreed on a threshold in my savings when I would get 100% financially covered. Despite the critical situation, I was lucky to have financial support to afford to continue full time studying on my own, looking for jobs, and persisting for nine months until my first job offer arrived.
At this point, I would recommend you to read I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It’s one of the best books to help you organize and set up your personal finance engine. First, I recommend it because it’s an essential guide that will help you plan for a great retirement while living a great life. Second, the book describes a ladder of personal finance. After maximizing the traditional investment solutions, the author recommends “investing in yourself” because “there’s no better investment than your own career.” and that’s what you’re precisely doing right now.
If you went on reading The Defining Decade, you probably learned about the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets. People who jump into learning programming are putting into practice the latter.
I found this graphic that describes the primary differences between fixed and growth mindsets. Although the model applies to everything, your new career in software engineering will continuously throw at you new challenges and obstacles, require continuous effort, and bring you lots of criticism and third-party success stories. On every day of your new coding career, you should identify each of these factors and approach them with a vigorous growth mindset.
Especially after finishing the bootcamp, your growth mindset will have to work at 200% or higher.
Let’s do a quick exercise. We are going to imagine how your future student life will be.
- You quit your job and are a full-time student.
- You are immersed in a hyper-fast-pace learning experience.
- Every day you wake up and go to sleep coding.
- You are learning something completely different from your previous professional career.
- The amount of information that you are processing per day can feel overwhelming.
- You only have four months to learn the basics that will open you the doors to a new job market.
- You are learning a new way of solving problems, which is highly abstract thinking.
- You have to pass regular tests if you don’t want the school to invite you to leave. (Damn, I quit my job!)
In my experience, I didn’t feel continuously overwhelmed throughout the bootcamp. Nonetheless, there were a few moments where I found myself banging my head against the wall again and again.
We all have different ways of learning, but the speed at which bootcamps teach forces you to work at a higher capacity. You will feel constant eustress that will keep you excited and motivated. However, you must be ready to continually get out of your comfort zone and be able to handle stress and pressure, so the eustress doesn’t turn into distress.
The best way to succeed is to get mentally ready and keep healthy habits during the four months of classes. You should start creating routines for sleeping enough hours at night, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.
To emotionally support students, Flatiron School implemented a group activity called Feelings Fridays. On Friday, the group sits together for thirty minutes, and each person shares their emotions. Some people might share the struggles faced during the week, achievements, frustrations or personal problems that might be interfering with their capacity to focus. Honestly, I highly appreciated those moment of sharing.
By the time I was on my own, I genuinely miss those moments of group therapy. However, If you don’t have a support network to help you be mentally prepared to perform well, you might want to check this book I read during my 9-month job search: Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed.
Recently I came across the book One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work with a Mentor — and Why You’ll Benefit from Being One. During my apprenticeship at my current job, I had two different formal mentors. The value I got from them was extraordinary.
I didn’t consider starting a mentorship before my bootcamp but, with perspective, I believe it’s an excellent idea to find a software engineer to mentor you since the very beginning. They can provide guidance, technical help, and open you to a vast network of developers and recruiters in the near future!
Bootcamps are expensive. There are many out there, and their payment plans differ from one to another. Beyond the cost and the payment plans offered, you should also compare what each school offers.
Money-back Guarantee Commitment
Forget about it.
Flatiron School has a money-back guarantee policy. Once you officially start your job search, you must keep a weekly activity tracker, which includes committing code to GitHub, reaching out to people connected to prospective employers, writing blog posts, applying for jobs, etcetera.
If you end up not getting a job, they could potentially refund you if you meet all the minimum weekly goals for each category. However, keeping for several months the level of work that they require is not sustainable. Indeed, if you can keep that level of discipline, you are guaranteed to get a job! Therefore, do not focus on qualifying for a potential refund; instead, maintain a healthy daily work discipline to get a job.
The first question you might want to ask yourself is: do you want to be a web, Android, or iOS engineer? Developing for phones requires a different stack than developing for websites, and there are bootcamps for each case.
When I was considering Flatiron, I had concerns about a steep learning curve, and I bought the accessible-first-language argument. Indeed, Ruby on Rails was a good framework to build upon. However, most of the projects end up having the same Rails backend.
Networking is essential when it comes to getting a job. Bootcamps give you access to their extensive alumni network. Connecting to alumni from your same school -icebreaker!- is always an excellent opportunity for networking and exploring potential jobs at the companies they work for. Great alumni networks also build name recognition for the bootcamp schools and, therefore, having their name on your resume provides useful context to companies looking at your profile.
When I decided to move forward with Flatiron School, I didn’t value their career support services much. By the time I finished the training, I started appreciating their work to help me land a job.
Their services included a career coach to guide me on how to build my new resume and provide career and moral support; cultural and technical preparatory (mock) interviews; internal career fairs; internal emailing system for job opportunities; as well as direct intros to hiring companies. Other bootcamps might offer similar services; do some research on what they offer. It might not seem a deciding factor at the beginning, but having a team of professionals working for you has incredible value on those first moments of uncertainty and blind job search.
If you found this article useful, share it with anyone considering a bootcamp or already in the process of becoming a software engineer.
Thank you for reading this article and good luck with your future endeavors!